Govt response to Pacific languages disappointing
A group of Auckland educators say the government is not doing enough to help Pacific students prosper at preschools, and is in danger of repeating past mistakes made with Te Reo Maori.
A group of Auckland educators say the Government is not doing enough to help Pacific pupils prosper at pre schools and is in danger of repeating past mistakes made with Te Reo Maori.
Their comments follow a parliamentary select committee which recommended boosting low numbers of Pacific children in early childhood education, through bilingual support.
The Auckland Languages Strategy Group says the inquiry's recommendations were ambiguous to start with and the Government's response isn't any better.
Daniela Maoate-Cox reports:
Samoan language and culture have been at the heart of the A'oga Amata early childhood centre in Newtown, Wellington for nearly thirty years. The centre's supervisor Savaliga Liko, says the immersive bilingual programme attracts parents who want their children to learn Samoan.
SAVALIGA LIKO: A lot of the parents that don't speak Samoan are so proud of their children learning Samoan and they sing their songs and say their prayers and are also very proud when their children talk to their grandparents in Samoan.
The trouble is, centres like this prosper in spite of Government policy, not because of it, according to the Auckland Languages Strategy group. An academic there, Sharon Harvey, says the Government's responses to the Select committee recommendations fail hard working schools like this one in Newtown.
SHARON HARVEY: The recommendations that came out of the inquiry were very weak, they used verbs like encourage, support, continue and very little in the way of concrete action or new concrete action for government to undertake.
An Auckland University education lecturer, John McCaffery, says the Pacific population is projected to grow and the Government needs to take the link between Pacific language and Pacific achievement seriously.
JOHN MCCAFFERY: I don't know where people think that the wealth of society is going to come from if you have nearly a third of the next generation unable to be employed. The puzzle is why government won't even engage in a discussion of the potential of these programmes to raise academic achievement.
But the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga says the government is doing its share, and Pacific communities need to play their part, such as putting their hand up for Board of Trustees positions.
PESETA SAM LOTU-LIGA: We've worked with local Pacific communities, we have programmes in place, we've identified the top 25 schools, we've sent out messages of encouragement to take up boards of trustees positions. It's about not just the government taking part but it's about communities getting in behind their candidates and voting them in.
However an expert in bilingual education from Auckland University, Stephen May, says international research shows language preservation is not the sole responsibility of communities.
STEPHEN MAY: If you have consistently negative attitudes expressed towards languages, what happens is that parents internalize those attitudes and they start switching to English. That was the history of Maori language loss and it's the experience of many linguistic minority groups worldwide so leaving it to the communities is simple not good enough.
But the government says it will wait for all research to be fully explored in order to achieve meaningful results.
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